Why I fell in love with Kenya

Deloris Jordan, mother of world’s greatest basketball player, Micheal Jordan was inspired by her desire to help women and children, especially those affected by gender based violence

Deloris Jordan, mother of the most successful basket ball players of all time, Michael Jordan has redefined philanthropy in Kenya. She came to Kenya in 1993 on an excursion mission, which ended up giving birth to a long affair with Kenya.

Her son’s foundation, the James R Jordan’ Foundation International (JRJFI) plans to construct Kenya’s biggest hospital for women and children.

They will break ground this year. Deloris who was in the country this month attending the Mama Sara Obama Foundation summit says that the journey she embarked on 23 years ago was inspired by her desire to help children and women.

“I came here on an excursion in 1993 and immediately fell in love with the Kenyan people because they are the friendliest people I have met. That is why we set up the foundation here,” she says.

It’s when she started to work with Sam Thenya of the Nairobi Women Hospital that her eyes truly opened up to the plight women and children in Kenya, especially regarding gender based violence. Today, Deloris chairs the board of the Kenya Women’s Children’s Wellness Centre, whose mission is to expand health care services in Kenya.

The non-profit facility will promote equity and excellence in healthcare for Kenya’s women and children, with a special focus on those from underprivileged and poor communities.

“I came to Kenya during the 40 years of independence anniversary when I toured the Nairobi Woman Hospital and I became aware of the need for such a centre and that is when I gathered a group of global partners to make the vision of the Kenya Women’s and Children’s Wellness Centre a reality,” she says.

Located at the campus of United States International University in Nairobi Kenya, and housed on a 10 acre piece of land, the hospital will be a state-of-the-art healthcare facility.

The centre, whose construction begins this year, will be a gender violence and recovery centre and will have 184 beds with in and outpatient care and a laboratory.

It will also have a family village model where rooms will be designed like apartments and parents with sick children can stay with them as they get treatment. Her philanthropic work has received worldwide recognition and at one point she was invited by President Barrack Obama, when he was the Illinois senator to work with them.

“I have met both Obama and Michelle and at one point they wanted us to work together in Chicago, this is while he was a senator. It would have been nice to catch up with him while he was here but he was very busy,” she says. The spirit of philanthropy runs in the family.

Micheal established the foundation in 1989 in honour of his late father James Jordan. “Michael also works with the Make-A-Wish Foundation, which grants wishes of children who are diagnosed with life- threatening medical conditions in the US where he has granted over 200 wishes for the kids,” she said.

For the mother of one of the most successful players in the National Basketball Association (NBA) the most frequently asked question has been what made him such a great basketball player. She attributes his success to the family values instilled in him at an early age.

She says in her book Salt in his shoes that when he was a boy he wasn’t sure he would ever be tall enough to excel at the game he loved and to cheer him up, she told him that if he put salt in his shoes it would help him grow.

“Every night I sprinkled salt in his shoes, but when the salt didn’t seem to do the trick, Michael’s father reminded him that being tall wasn’t the only path to being an excellent basketball player it was hard work and giving his all that mattered,” she says.

Deloris says that they were not keen on having him focus on sports in the beginning and they really emphasised the need for Michael and his siblings to focus on their education.

“My husband and I wanted the kids to focus on education but Michael loved sports and loved running in track races among other games before settling on basketball,” she says.

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